Sunday, November 02, 2008

 

Tangerine Curd Tart

Today's entry does not have the beginning I had mentally drafted. You see, I took photos of flowering kowhai trees (sophora microphylla) last week as evidence of spring in New Zealand, for yellow is one of the most striking colours of our spring - it sparkles against new green growth and dew drops, however cold the days might still be right up to the middle of the season. This morning I looked out the kitchen window while preparing the deified first coffee of the day, expecting to see the gorgeous ochre and sunshine yellow bells of the kowhai. Instead, I was confronted by an alternate reality: no flowers at all on the kowhai tree. Suddenly I had a flashback of something overheard on the news last night (I don't generally watch the news on telelvision, as a rule, preferring instead to make time to read worthwhile publications that analyse world events and politics): yesterday was the first day of summer. What? Fear not, those idiots got it wrong (giving credence to my belief in using other sources for the news). A quick search on MetService, however, confirms that summer is indeed from December to February. Tell that to the kowhai, though, which I thought flowered throughout spring. Perhaps this is a tough year for the speciman in my backyard. And tell that to the locally-grown tangerines that I have.

It seems as if the flora are all a little confused at the moment. Perhaps this is evidence of global warming on a micro level? Concerning tangerines, perhaps winter fruit and vegetables are genetically predisposed to survival, whereas springtime specimens are more delicate? No matter the science, the point is that I have tangerines at my fingertips, presumably the last of the available local citrus fruit, the colour of which supplies warmth and mental bolstering to what continues to be an unpredictable and cool time of the year.

Tangerines (mandarins that have red-orange peels) are so named because they were first shipped from Tangier, Morocco, to Europe. Of course, this is a purely imperialist distinction. The fact is that tangerines are widely consumed all over Northern Africa, the Middle East and pockets of Asia. Tangerines are generally smaller than oranges and less tart. There is a beautiful ethereal quality to their colouring - not quite orange, not quite yellow, but a blur of the two. Tangerines provide a soft tangy foil to desserts of caramel and chocolate. Of course, one can highlight the quality of tangerines in an easy tart.

Of course, you do not have to use tangerines. You might have other citrus around at the moment, and a curd can be made from all of them - one made from pink grapefruit is especially pretty.

Tangerine Curd Tart

for the Pastry:

5oz/140g flour, sifted
2 1/2oz/70g unsalted butter, cut up into small cubes
1 egg, separated
1/2 tablespoon tangerine zest
1 tablespoon tangerine juice
1 pinch salt
iced water, optional

1) In a bowl, rub together the flour and butter with the tips of your fingers until a granular consistency is reached. Mix in tangerine zest.
2) In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk, tangerine juice and salt.
3) Mix egg and flour mixtures together with hands (mixing in one direction) or with a wooden spoon. You want the mixture to cohere into a ball. If it does not seem to be coming together, add **one** tablespoon of iced water at a time. You may not need any, but if you do need it, be careful not to add too much because you'll end up with a wet mess and the damage will be done - unless, of course, you want to pour out the excess and add in a bit more flour, but that is a gamble, and I wouldn't recommend it.
4) Once a ball has been formed, create a flat disc, and cover in cling-film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5) Bring pastry out of the fridge and let rest for 5-10 minutes, to allow pastry to become pliable.
6) Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.
7) Put pastry on a lightly-floured surface. Roll it out with a floured rolling pin, turning the pastry after each pass of the rolling pin to ensure it doesn't stick to the surface. Roll it out so it can fit into a prepared (that is to say, buttered and floured) 9 or 10" tart shell.
8) Allow to sit in tart shell in fridge for 15 minutes.
9) Cover pastry with parchment paper onto which you put baking beans (this is to weight down the pastry, so it doesn't rise and bubble during the initial baking process).
10) Bake for 15 minutes.
11) Remove parchment paper and beans. Prick base with the tines of a fork, then dab lightly beaten egg whites over the surface to give added crispness to the pastry.
12) Bake for a further 5-10 minutes until golden all over.

for the Tangerine Curd:

2 small-medium tangerines, zested and juiced
2 eggs and 3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
113g/4oz unsalted butter

1) In a bowl, beat together 2 tablespoons of tangerine zest, 1/2 cup tangerine zest, the eggs, yolks, and sugar.
4) Over a low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. (If you are increasing the quantity of citrus curd, you may want to use a wider pan in order to speed up the setting of the curd.)
5) Stir in the liquid mixture.
6) Whisk constantly over a low heat until it has come together and has thickened, almost like custard. This took me approximately 30 minutes because I am overly cautious. You may choose to do this at a medium-high heat but at your own risk. Do not forget to stop whisking as you do not want to cook the eggs.
7) Pour the curd into a bowl and cover once cooled. It can then be refrigerated or used immediately. For the purposes of this tart, refrigerate the curd for 30 minutes once cooled.

To assemble the tart, pour the cold tangerine curd into the pastry shell and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it. This open-faced tart looks like spring and tastes like winter. It offers a cool, tangy surprise to the palate and is as perfumed as the headiest of spring days. Feel free to serve the tart with whipped cream or natural yoghurt, into which is stirred a tablespoon of tangerine juice, or enjoy it as is. Given the complication of timing the seasons, it is best to just to accept local nature's produce as it becomes available. I will become concerned about flip-flopping seasons should I find myself making strawberry shortcakes in winter.

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Comments:
Hi Shaun! I'm glad I'm not the only one that "mentally drafts" posts. I find myself doing that all the time ... in the shower ... on the subway ...

This tangerine curd has my mouth watering!
 
I'll put the kettle on while you cut me a slice :-)
 
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A delicious change from lemon curd tart! Beautiful colours and so seasonal!
 
Ivonne ~ I seem to draft everything. Sometimes I already think that I have sent e-mails or published posts because I have gone over them in my mind already. This tart is really lovely; tangerine is a warmer option than lemon and not so tangy as orange - it somehow seems elegant because of this.

Anthony ~ Earl Grey would be perfect with this, actually. I'm sure our paths will cross soon enough.

Octavio ~ Thank you for the invitation.

Freya and Paul ~ Indeed, this is a subtle and welcome change to lemon curd. I love the warmth of the curd and the resulting taste. It could, of course, be heightened with a little nutmeg, but it is great as it is.
 
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